You work hard in the gym or during a run, thinking you’ll be able to sweat off the extra calories you consumed during your recent night of overindulgence. While many people believe that sweating is a sign you’re burning lots of calories, relying on how drenched your shirt is when you’re done may be a bit misleading.
For every fitness truth, there is a fitness myth. A belief or saying that has been repeated for so long that people automatically come to believe it. The connection between how much you sweat and how many calories you burn during a workout falls into the myth side of the equation. Why? Because there are just too many factors that influence how much your body sweats and most of them have nothing to do with how hard you’re working or how many calories you’re burning.
Sweat is an automatic biological response designed to regulate your internal body temperature by cooling your skin. Sure, the harder you work, the more likely your body will need to be cooled, which will result in you sweating more. But these factors also play a key role in how much you sweat:
- Physiology – The amount of sweat your body produces is more dependent on your physiology than anything else. Some people simply sweat more than others under the same circumstances.
- Fitness level – Some fit people sweat more because their bodies become more efficient at cooling themselves down over time. On the other hand, the fitter you are, the more intense your effort generally needs to be to increase your body temperature enough to give you a reason to sweat.
- Gender – Men tend to sweat more than women. Of course, every person’s physiology is different so this is just a generalization.
- Air temperature – When air temperature is high, your core temperature heats up quicker and stays elevated so you’ll sweat more. For example, you’re more likely to sweat when you go on a 3 mile run in 80-degree weather than if you do the same thing in 50-degree weather.
- Humidity – Your body cools off when sweat evaporates on your skin. When humidity levels are elevated, sweat doesn’t evaporate as easily. This keeps your internal temperature elevated and can result in more sweating than if the air were drier.
- Clothing – What you’re wearing can influence how easily your body releases or retains heat. This can impact how much you sweat.
- Hydration – If you are dehydrated while you’re working out, you’ll sweat less because your body has mechanisms designed to limit the amount of fluid your body loses.
No matter how much you sweat, you won’t really be influencing calorie burn or weight loss. Sweating only results in the loss of water weight, not fat. Once you rehydrate by drinking fluids after your workout, you’ll quickly replace what was lost through sweating.
There are numerous myths related to the amount of effort you put into a workout and its effect on weight loss. It’s unclear how many of these myths began, but if weight loss is your goal, you’ll need to focus not only on how much you exercise but also on the type and volume of food you consume.